By Barb Brouwer
Fifty years ago, a young man realized a long-held dream.
Garrett (Garry) Norman Wynne has started practicing law and, at 77, has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I love working and it’s interesting work that gets me up in the morning and fills my day,” he says. “I meet a lot of people, I solve some problems and I hope not to create too many.”
Wynne earned a BA from the University of Alberta and taught high school in Cremona, Alberta. Two years later, he entered law school at UBC and was called to the bar of the Supreme Court of British Columbia on May 15, 1972.
He articled in Kelowna and a year later opened an office in Salmon Arm where his increasingly busy practice was recording land transfers and mortgages.
“I’ve done quite a bit of family law and some civil litigation, areas where some people have very difficult issues,” he says of wearing robes to represent clients in court. “I don’t do family law or litigation anymore, it’s too hard on my system at my old age.”
In 2007 he joined the offices of Verdurmen & Company, now known as Verdurmen Law.
“Garry has never taken for granted the enormous responsibilities he has as an advocate for his clients and as an officer of the court,” said Glenn Verdurmen. “His direct and simple advice to his clients is his business. He never hides the truth or gives false hope.
Verdurmen also credits Wynne for adapting to legislative changes and an avalanche of new technologies.
Although being a lawyer has always been his plan, it is less clear to identify a reason for his career choice.
“I really don’t know,” he mused. “It’s an interesting area; people find themselves in the strangest situations and sometimes you can help them out.
Wynne grew up in Berwyn, a small town in Alberta in the Peace River region, a place he describes as then having a population of 300, counting the dogs.
“I’m a small-town lawyer,” he says. “When really difficult cases arose, I always sent people to the experts in the big centres.”
He called a single appearance before the British Columbia Court of Appeal interesting. It was a case between Wynne’s client, the owner of a local gas station, and a major oil company “with very deep pockets”.
“We passed the trial but lost on appeal,” he said wryly. “It made me realize that I had no interest in going back to an appeal court.”
Wynne found plenty of other things to do in the city that he and his wife Faye Perry continue to enjoy. Curling, hockey and golf kept him active for many years.
“I played hockey when I was younger,” he says. “I was never good, but I liked it.”
When he stopped playing, Roy Sakaki wouldn’t let him hang up his skates. Instead, he skated into a 25-year career as a minor and recreational hockey referee.
Still nervous, Wynne flew off in an attempt to overcome his fear.
“I thought okay, OK, I’ll take the bull by the horns,” he said, noting that he got his private pilot’s license. “I flew for a few hours and decided it was too expensive a hobby and didn’t reduce the stress of flying.”
The community-minded lawyer served on the council for a three-year term and ran for mayor three times in the 1980s.
“I don’t know why, but a lot of lawyers get into politics, which is a similar field where you try to solve unsolvable problems,” he said. “I learned that my political career was short.”
Wynne said Salmon Arm was a wonderful place to live and work; a small town with a population of between 6,000 and 8,000 when he arrived.
No longer playing sports, Wynne said he spent time playing the piano.
Once his constant companion, Wynne’s beloved old dog, Sammy, is now deaf and blind. She no longer accompanies him to the office, staying at home sleeping most of the day.
He is philosophical about his own senior years.
“I tell people my age is divisible by 11, maybe the last time.”
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